Can You Be Addicted to Pornography?

Compulsive use is probably a better word for it than addiction. What constitutes “too much” pornography is anyone’s guess: 25% of all search engine requests are pornography related, 35% of all downloads are pornographic, and “sex” is the number one searched term on the internet. In America, 40 million people are regular visitors to porn sites.

Pornography addiction is not the same as sex addiction. First of all, many porn addicts would like a monogamous relationship, the opposite of sex addicts. Additionally, pornography addicts may have sexual performance issues and fail to be aroused by a real person, even if they find that person attractive. Pornography addiction often will not spill over into other areas of the person’s life, unlike sex addiction which may be more consuming. In most respects, pornography addiction is closer to video game addiction than sex addiction.

There are some warning signs that pornography is becoming a problem. One example is when you feel like it is out of control, or fail at attempts to quit or limit porn use. Another indication is problems with intimacy. Unfortunately, there is no mental health standard by which to diagnose pornography addiction.

Pornography addiction does have some physiological similarities to other forms of addiction. When porn is viewed, dopamine is released in the brain. Dopamine rewards the brain for the behavior, reinforcing it. Orgasm releases more dopamine, further reinforcing the relationship. Simply put, watching pornography feels go, so we are compelled to do it. The fact that it is so easy to access internet pornography makes it easy for this cycle to get out of control.

Pornography can be compared to junk food in how it affects behavior. First of all, it tastes good. The brain associates it with a basic human need (eating and reproduction). It is inexpensive, and the hurdles to acquiring it are low. The brain is essentially tricked into consuming a substitute for what it is really craving. The associations are then reinforced through repetition. Eventually, the brain comes to prefer what it is being repeatedly fed as the body adapts. That is the point when it truly becomes a problem.

There are ways to overcome an addiction to pornography. Although it is not individually recognized in the DSM-IV, psychologists are very receptive and helpful in addressing this problem. There is an increasing awareness of the symptoms, as the spread of internet pornography is increasing exposure to the risks. Some online resources are listed below.

Additional Resources

WebMD, Is Pornography Addictive? http://men.webmd.com/features/is-pornography-addictive

Psychology Today, Porn Addict or Selfish Bastard? http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/sexual-intelligence/201105/porn-addict-or-selfish-bastard-life-is-more-complicated

Psychology Today, A Possible Cure For Pornography Addiction: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-pacific-heart/201201/possible-cure-pornography-addiction-in-essay

Psychology Today, Porn Addiction is Not Sex Addiction: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/cupids-poisoned-arrow/201111/porn-addiction-is-not-sex-addiction-and-why-it-matters

Statistics for Sex and Porn Addiction: http://www.operationintegrity.org/pdf/Porn%20&%20Sex%20Statistics.pdf

Family Safe Media, Pornography Statistics: http://www.familysafemedia.com/pornography_statistics.html

Psych Central, 7 Warning Signs You Might Have a Porn Problem: http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2012/06/07/7-warning-signs-you-might-have-a-porn-problem/

Ask Men, Dealing With Porn Addiction: http://www.askmen.com/dating/love_tip_400/404_love_tip.html

Gizmodo, How Pornography Addiction Works and Affects Your Life: http://gizmodo.com/5985652/how-pornography-addiction-works-and-affects-your-life

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